Our Editors Pick Their Albums of the Year
Mandy, Indiana

Mandy, Indiana don’t get around as much as they’d like. They’re a noise band out of Manchester, England, and it’s where they spend most of their days working real jobs between live gigs while letting their songs of distortion, electronics and a searing, often frantic energy do the traveling.

“We don’t play all that much,” says guitarist and songwriter Scott Fair, at the moment sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with the band in a trailer at the Coachella festival in Indio, Ca. They played about 30 dates in 2023, spread out over a year of one-off festivals and brief runs, plus some showcase gigs during a stop at South By Southwest in Austin, but it’s much less than Fair would prefer.

More from Spin:

“It’s really hard to make money from touring, so we just can’t do it that often,” he says. “I guess that’s why maybe we don’t have a real grasp on who or what the fan base is. Hopefully, it’s a diverse audience and it’s like-minded people that have the same values.”

What Mandy, Indiana’s songs deliver on several EPs, singles, and, most recently, on their debut album, I’ve Seen a Way, is a sound that has been called noise, post-punk, underground, indie rock, and more. But “noise” is their preferred umbrella term for a wide palette of aggressive music, from the brooding, industrial, and atmospheric to some energetic tracks ready for the dancefloor. A prime example is the new album’s pulsating, smoky instrumental “Love Theme (4K VHS),” a noisy collision of New Order and Daft Punk.

The album was largely recorded not in professional studios but in random spaces that provided another layer of texture and noise, as the band sought out whatever caverns, caves, or industrial spaces that appealed to them. The interference of ambient echoes and industrial sounds find their way into the band’s beautifully imperfect tracks, evidenced by the growling, machine-like textures on “Stripe” that accompany singer Valentine Caulfield’s lyrics about revolution and a little girl living in a castle.

Mandy, Indiana
Mandy, Indiana performs at Coachella in 2024. (Left to right) guitarist Scott Fair, singer, Valentine Caulfield, and drummer Alex Macdougall (Credit: Steve Appleford)

“We’ve never been an especially well-funded project,” says Fair. “So if you don’t have the means of recording in high fidelity, noise music is something that’s really fun to experiment with because you can make it cheap. You can experiment with feedback and with harsh noise and plug something into something else. It was really exciting.” 

At the same time, the songs are accented by the crucial energy and evocative French-language vocals of Caulfield, who makes her own kind of noise by reacting against war, sexism, and a world out of control.

“If you look at the lyrics for this band, I kind of go in circles in a way that is probably quite characteristic of people in my political sphere,” says Caulfield, who grew up in Paris, as the adopted daughter of “very French Catholic” parents. “I talk about feminism, I talk about leftism, I talk about social justice. I talk about wanting the world to be a better place for everyone. But growing up a woman, especially growing up a woman of color, it’s not an easy feat.”

On “Drag (Crashed),” she sings of continued objectification of women in the modern world, and the barriers that remain for gender equality: “Smile, smile, smile, smile / It’s prettier a girl who smiles / Cover your shoulders, you’ll distract the boys / Your skirt is too short, you’ll distract the boys.”

“I think every single line in it is something that was said to me or about me,” Caulfield says. “I’m just going to put the reality of things in front of you and then you can decide if you think that that’s okay or not.” 

Caulfield studied journalism and languages at Manchester Metropolitan University and is fluent on various issues of war, multinational politics, and immigration, which fuel many of her lyrics. On “Pinking Shears,” she roars in what translates to English, “When we choose our refugees / Only blondes are allowed in / Those we bombard we tell to fuck off.”

Mandy, Indiana
Singer Valentine Caulfield of Mandy, Indiana performs at Coachella in 2024 (Credit: Steve Appleford)

“I’m bringing on my own demise because I’m a journalist. This is what I do for a living. I’ve been looking at the state of the world for the last few months and just despairing at what’s going on,” says Caulfield, dressed for the desert heat in a dress of black lace. She says performing “Pinking Shears” this past year has brought her to tears onstage with thoughts of the tragedies in Gaza and Israel. “If I’m not going to sing about it, then I’m not really doing anything about it. I’ve not got power by myself. So yeah, I’m going to keep singing about it until it changes or I kill myself, whichever comes first.” 

They all have other jobs at home in Manchester. Keyboardist Simon Catling has worked as a music journalist and promotes concerts, while drummer Alex Macdougall designs and builds modern furniture, and Fair works for an agency licensing music for film and TV. Caulfield writes for a French website, but also runs the band’s X (formerly Twitter) account, where she’s developed a personal sense about at least some of their fans.

“There’s this young guy in South America who loves us and it’s funny because I think I have a weird parasocial relationship with every person who is actively into us,” she says. “I couldn’t give you a profile of our fans, but I know most of them by their first name. I feel like there’s a weird little group of people who follow us. I really like that.” 

Following their debut at SXSW, the band played scattered shows in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. At Coachella, they utilized the high-profile appearance to introduce the new song “Magazine,” which is destined to appear on their next album.

While Manchester is where the band came together, none of them are natives of the city. Some arrived to study at one of the universities. Fair just figured it was a good place to make music.

Mandy, Indiana
Guitarist Scott Fair of Mandy, Indiana performs at Coachella in 2024 (Credit: Steve Appleford)

“I was living with the band that I was in at the time in Chester, which is just north of North Wales,” Fair explains. “We were like, where are we gonna go to, mate? We can’t go to London. It’s too far. Let’s move to Manchester! So we all moved there as a band. And we didn’t make it.”

They had all been in bands, but what makes Mandy, Indiana different from their other forays was the presence of Caulfield, whose previous musical experiences were more formal and contained, including some classical. “I’d never done anything with somebody like her before,” says Fair. “I’d always been in a band with other guys of a similar age to me, and it was always English language. So it’s like, why don’t we do something different and deliberately steer towards something that feels uncomfortable or not well defined, you know?”

Their Coachella set an hour later unfolds in the festival’s Sonora tent, an enclosed space more like a club than a typical festival stage. It’s where a lot of Coachella’s noisier, indie-r and punkier sounds erupt, which makes it especially fitting..

Fair cradles his aqua-colored Fender, squeezing out sparks of distortion and stomping on his effects pedals. Catling is in the shadows, bent over his synths and a single tom-tom drum, and Macdougall is pounding an anxious beat. Then, Caulfield steps out in a colorful outfit of straps and stripes. The effect is playfully avant-garde, boh loose and form-fitting, with shades of black, white and blue, and covered in fluffy pink flowers.

Almost immediately, she’s dancing wildly, and soon, during “Drag (Crashed),” she leaps to the floor, leaving the band behind as she moves with the crowd. Trailing the long cord of her mic with her, Caulfield dances and leans into the faces of fans, who are bouncing and shouting around her. A circle has formed as the song comes to a crashing finish, and she falls to her knees to shriek the closing French lyric: “Tout le monde sait qu’une femme ça sourit/Souris, souris, souris, souris!” (“Everyone knows that a woman smiles / Smile, smile, smile, smile!”)

After years of exploring other musical styles and sounds, she found a home in the unlikely noise of Mandy, Indiana. “I come from the idea of being directed and being told exactly what to do. This is very much the opposite of that. This is like, make animal noises if you want. Just do some weird shit,” she says happily. “It’s as far away from anything I’ve done before as I could get. And that’s what’s keeping it interesting for me. it’s a project that’s always evolving like nothing I’ve ever done.”

To see our running list of the top 100 greatest rock stars of all time, click here.